Moira+I went to the Bristol Old Vic last night to see Sean O’Casey’s “Juno and the Paycock”. It’s a bleak, stark tale of a Dublin family during the time of the Irish Civil War of 1922-3 (there was a certain irony that we saw a play about the bid to establish an independent Ireland on the day of the Scottish referendum result announcement). It was a time of factionalism, great poverty, high infant mortality, awful slum tenement housing, anger and much bitterness.It doesn’t really sound like a fun way to spend a Friday night does it!
Well, no, it wasn’t fun… but it was a very powerful story of the divide between rich and poor, the hopelessness of the have-nots and desperate survival. I haven’t yet read any reviews of the play but, in her programme notes, director Gemma Bodinetz concluded: “What’s the point of existing without the possibility of laughter, a good tale well told and hope?”. Well, actually, I don’t think there was an awful lot of laughter last night (some, yes, but not much) and certainly not much hope.
In a strange way, having reflected on the play overnight, I've been reminded of various situations highlighted in various “Who Do You Think You Are?” television episodes - when people uncover tragic events and hopeless circumstances relating to their respective ancestors… AND YET, somehow, their families managed to pull through, against all the odds.
This might all sound very negative as far as last night’s “Juno and the Paycock” is concerned? Well, that wasn’t the case at all. The set, the music and the cast were all hugely impressive. The play had a powerful message for audiences today (the divide between rich and poor) and the leading actors Des McCaleer (Captain Jack Boyle) and Niamh Cusack (Juno Boyle) were both excellent – Niamh Cusack was simply superb.
The play ends on 27 September… if you live in the Bristol area, it’s well worth seeing.